The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Monday, February 05, 2007

They Look Like Us Now

I seem to be perenially behind the pack on new sci-fi series, but I'm catching up. Big ups to the friends who provide DVDs to educate me.

My latest new venture is the modern Battlestar Galactica, and my dealer is Mr the Red (who doesn't get a link until he blogs again!).

I have vague memories of the first time around, although mostly they are consumed by my anger when the childhood friend I asked to tape a crucial episode when I was away did so, but clearly stopped the video about ten minutes before the end. Needless to say, that's not a friendship that is still extant.

Anyway, I remember enough to recognise Richard Hatch when he pops up in the series (as a terrorist, hah hah!), and to know that when the female Starbuck lights up one of those fat cigar things she is channelling her predecessor.

I'm hopeful I'll be writing more about BSG as I motor through the rest of the first series* and then the second, but for now I wanted to write about a few of the aspects of the show that have really struck me:

1. Gina (No. 6) - The beautiful woman no one can see - I'm not sure how I feel about this beyond thinking it's a damn clever device. The fact that she's also a cylon means that there are levels of deception even when she does appear to the crew of the Big G as Shelley Godfrey (and prompts the line that makes me chuckle every time I think of it, "No more Mr Nice Gaius!")

And now that I'm typing "Godfrey", I'm wondering about the symbolism of that moniker, given her intense religion and the way she pushes it on Baltar...

2. The entwining of contemporary political phrases in episodes - early on there's "we do not negotiate with terrorists", and I noticed quite a few other references to the War on Terror. The first series (which is what I'm gleaning this from) was shown in 2004 I think? And so far the references to George W Bush's politics have been rather negatively portrayed, imho.

3. The effort made to represent women in leadership roles, and include non-white actors - but I'm yet to see anything other than heterosexuality on the screen.

4. The running of the space-based military seems to have evolved from airforce, not navy - certainly in sci-fi writing it hasn't been uncommon for spaceships to run on naval lines, and I'm sure I can remember at least one TV series (readers help me out here!) where it was explicitly explained how they got from the sea to space. After all, we'd call them spaceplanes otherwise wouldn't we?

5. The humanoid cylons appear to be in charge of the machinery ones - which says interesting things about how humanoids really feel about their creators. The way that three of them (at least) are playing with Helo on Caprica reminds me of a science experiment, and is not that different from how we might treat a new species we discovered if we were able to manipulate it covertly. Contrast this with Starbuck carving up the cylon raider she finds when she crashes - she's all about the surviving, which I'm sure I will be too when I'm crash-landed on a strange moon without a breathable atmosphere.

Here's a very tempting link I found - Wikipedia's comparison of the modern and original BSGs. Beware though, lots of spoilers therein, which had me yelling "No!" at the puter screen until I could bring myself to click the little red box with the X in.

What I'm looking forward to watching unfold:
  • Boomer Galactica realising she's a cylon and coping with that
  • Starbuck fending off the attentions of Baltar
  • Boomer Caprica and her fellow cylons revealing their motivations for whatever it is they are doing with Helo
  • No. 6 revealing more of this weird cylon religion
  • Finding out how they are dealing with the food crisis that they mentioned in the second episode of the first series. Hasn't come up again yet. Not so big on the annoying plot holes here in Spanland.
Ok readers, what are your observations of BSG? Don't worry too much about giving away spoilers (unless they directly relate to the bullet points I've listed above).

* So far I've watched the mini-series and about half of the first series.


Make Tea Not War said...

BSG is very, very compelling well made tv. It is also as bleak as hell & can be quite grueling in parts. I've watched all of it up to the most recent serie which is airing at the moment- though my husband is watching that. I just don't feel I have the strength right now & I also like to watch a few episodes at a time rather than being drip fed them. I'll probably watch it once its all been screened over a few nights when my significant other rewatches them- though, from what he says, it sounds like it might have lost its edge a bit this season.

Oliver said...

Stargate is the only other Sci Fi series I can think of off the top of my head where the evolution has come from the Air Force rather than the Navy. Star Trek is obviously the highest profile sci fi series and all its ranks are Naval in both title and appearance ie 4 stripes for a Captain, 3 stripes for a Commander. Then there's the ships names USS Enterprise - United States Ship Enterprise.

Conor Roberts said...

Well you see... in Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home - there are whales in that one, whales are in the sea, just like the Navy.

Also if you look at the names, on the oceans we have ships, in space we have SpaceSHIPS.

Perhaps most importantly, there is no air in space. Therefore there cant be an AIRforce in space.

Trouble said...

Oh, man. Just wait till you hit season 2. The politics just get more and more full-on and the beginning of season 3 is the darkest, most exciting sf I've ever seen on screen. Don't miss the pre-season 3 webisodes. The writers draw heavily from real world politics, including Iraq, Fiji, South Africa and good old US. Roslin is one interesting president and her relationship with the military is a key theme.

If you lose touch with your dealer, seasons 1 and 2 are available from good dvd rental places.

Oh, and there's also quite a funny little song on about the differences between the two series.

Ghet said...

Jane Espenson did a blog ages back about homosexuality in BSG, the gist being that the writers had said that yeah, they'd really like to do that but golly gee, they just couldn't work out how. Then you look at something like this:

and realise how systematic and successful producers like Rick Berman have been at ensuring scifi doesn't normalise lgbt behaviour. My money would be firmly on it never, ever happening in BSG because they appear to be going through the same 'too hard basket' denial process the ST franchise went through. If gay/bi behaviour is ever exhibited, it's associated with 'evil' characters or 'altered states' deviance.

We had real problems with watching BSG because at the time the first series was being played here, it was in a timeslot while our kids were up, and I found the occasional 'sex with an invisible woman' scene just a bit much.

Joe Hendren said...

I have also season 2 if your dealer gets busted :)

Given your love of things firefly I would recommend (re)discovering Blakes 7 if you have not already. I have season 4, but I would recommend you see the earlier seasons first (particularly the first)

I found your point 5 particularly interesting. Perhaps it is relevant that the 'toaster' cylons were created by man, whereas the human like cylons are evolved - or to some extent a creation of themselves. Perhaps they look at us like the evolved humans in Louise Loriances' "Children of the Dust" Homo Superior, rather than Homo Sapiens

Its worth noting that Star Trek was not as militaristic in the beginining, largely because creator Gene Roddenberry was wary of too much militiarism. Nicholas Meyer,when he directed Star Trek II deliberately bought in more Navy themes - the uniforms stuck for the later movies and influenced the later series.

Apologies for the essay in comments :)

Span said...

Thanks folks for your comments - I'm hoping to watch some more episodes tonight.

I thought I would find it kind of dumb after Firefly, but it's not. Although, strangely, the idea that it goes on and on puts me off a bit, because I am terrible at watching shows religiously.

Is it on free to air telly in NZ?

Ghet said...

span, there's a rumour TV3 has season 2 and has had for quite a while, but can't quite work out where to play it. Seeing as it hasn't started in their new season line-up, it's now not possible for them to play it before season THREE comes out on DVD. But they've bought it, so Prime won't be playing it.